Sunday, July 3, 2011

Make love, not idols...

I am having a bad day, so I thought I might as well get into trouble with a blog post; let's talk sex! Wave the kiddies off from this one, folks. It's R-rated in the very first sentence, I'm warning you.

But first, for clarity's sake, my working definition of the word idol: an object, person, or thing that takes the place of the True God.

We are doing it wrong!
When I was an unrepentant heathen I bought the contraceptive mentality that says sex is for entertainment then suffered being used as a means to an orgasm. I did my fair share of objectifying in those days, so don't think I'm playing the victim card here. I was merely a victim of my own stupidity and pointing out the "been there, done that" street cred on this point. Not that credibility is needed to see the point, but most people in our sex saturated culture are so lulled by the pretty blondes straddling the corvettes while hawking a Diet Pepsi that most of us do not even notice that women have became more objectified in our culture after the Sexual Revolution than they ever were before. (If you don't believe me, google the phrase "objectification of women" and enjoy yourself, and seriously, have you seen MTV in the last ten years or so?)

Now that I'm repentant, struggling against my social conditioning, and a little on the outside of the usual Christian circles by way of my Catholicism and by way of the place I converted from, I have a weird little insight I'd like to share. Our hedonistic culture and certain Christians/Catholics have the same idol--the male urge.

"What?!" thinks the average nonCatholic reader, "I thought only Catholics had idols!" 
"What?!" thinks the average Cafeteria Catholic, "I'm not interested in reading about anything that doesn't affirm me in my quest for..." <---that's as far as those folks are going to get before they drop off the radar by clicking off to another page in the endless search for the infallible evidence that they are indeed, the center of their own universe.
"What?!" thinks the average reader of this blog, "I don't get it yet, but at least it's not another recipe." 
"Interesting," thinks the average, open-to-life, NFPer. "I think I know where she's going with this one."<---please not that I am talking about a specific type of Natural Family Planning practitioner here. More on that later.
American Idol
The Male Urge Idol is not just worshiped in our post-Sexual Revolution Culture, but in the bedrooms of straight-laced, upright Christians. The idols are cast from the same mold, the contraceptive mentality, and both reduce a woman to her serviceableness. In other words, both mentalities reduce Woman to a tool.

Him, the Tool Man
Men compartmentalize their brains. It's how they work. In a 2009 National Geographic Daily News Article , researchers were shocked (shocked, I tell you) to find that men activate the "tool section" of their brains when seeing pictures of scantily clad women. They were further surprised (stunned and amazed) that the social sections of the brains were not also activated, stating that
 This means that these men see women "as sexually inviting, but they are not thinking about their minds," Fiske said. "The lack of activation in this social cognition area is really odd, because it hardly ever happens.
Do I need to mention that Fiske is a woman? Named Susan? Or did you guess that by the "hardly ever happens" line there? You could probably also guess that it hardly ever happens that I giggle while reading National Geographic articles, but it's even rarer for me to outright guffaw. It was fun, so I am not complaining. Just pointing out that it "hardly ever happens..."

Hold on a minute...
...while I take a brief sojourn into the daisy-petaled universe envisioned by science fiction? researchers wherein men behold women in beachwear and think rational, language-ladened thoughts such as, "Gosh, that bikini clad gal has a smokin' hot mind. I want to grasp her and wield her and name her Susan!"

I'm back now...thanks for the moment. Where were we?

Ah, the tool thing. Yes, well, men can forget all about the person in the bikini and the color of the bikini all while starting fixedly at the bikini. We women, on the other hand, are so relationship oriented that we can see a near-naked man on a car and wonder is that trunk is big enough for a trip to Costco and the grocery store because it would be nice not to have to pile the bulky stuff into the backseat, and wow that's smooth, did he shave his chest for this ad, do men get razor burn on their chests or would they wax, that's gotta hurt, you know this floor could use a coat of wax, but I really should strip it first and I don't have time for all of that with the kids out of school, so what happened to my resolution to do spring cleaning this year, oh I don't know anyway, when do I have the time for extras when I'm already so stressed and I really wish the kids would help out more and I bet that guy knows how to hit the hamper with his speedo unlike somebody who seems to think the floor is just fine for his dirty laundry but see if I care if that pile rots in the corner because I'm not picking it up this time. We forget that men don't make the connection between near naked people in advertising, laundry, and the next big spousal argument unless we women make it for them. They're funny like that.

While Fiske may be surprised that men see women as objects (tools), most other women and men on the planet are not. The evidence is all around us. What surprises a lot of unmarried people, and sadly, a lot of married people, is that mature men...don't. They've stopped the process in several ways. When it comes to his wife, he has learned to love her, the entirety of her and not just the parts of her, even when he is making love to her, and his mind becomes just as eagerly involved in the sexual union as his body does, making the act a uniting of two persons and not just the interlocking of two well-fitted parts. What I'm describing is the mind-blowing sex described in Theology of the Body (if you have a few hundred years or so) and other places (look here, too) that is the ultimate result of a committed, marital relationship, and a bonding hormone called oxytocin. Men produce oxytocin much later in a relationship than a woman does, if he has not lost the capacity to produce it through actions that sustain a state of perpetual adolescence such as  masturbation, porn addiction, or promiscuity before and after marriage.

So now this is where the Christians come in, and this is where people are going to get mad at me. We think we have sex safely corralled into marriage. Give a man enough sex and he won't sin sexually. We women shall be open and available at all times and smile nicely and even if we are not in the mood, we'll get there eventually, or maybe next time. Use it or lose it, ladies. C'mon now, hop into bed anytime he asks and you both will be fulfilled.

Except for one little detail. No one should be used by another, and this sounds dangerously close to the "tool man" mentality we were laughing about a few minutes ago.

I'm not laughing now because encouraging your husband to sin is serious. Take me seriously for a minute. Look at those rare and unmentionable feelings you may have had once or twice of disappointment and unease after a romp, if you've ever had them, and wonder for just a moment if maybe it was because you may have felt a little used? You are not alone if you've occasionally been left alone on a pillow moments afterwards without even a kiss. It happens sometimes. That's when it is obvious and that's when a talk that starts out, "Hey, honey, you know last night when...well..." can usually fix it.

What's harder to fix are the subtler manifestations of tool use. When he asks you to risk the cancers and blood clots of oral contraception because it is easier to risk your health than to deny himself sex on the three nights of the month that you are fertile. Learning NFP is such a bother anyway and who cares if it works if I'm horny right this moment and you are insist on being fertile.

Or the flip side...

...could look an awful lot like being open to life and accepting the babies that God gives you, experiencing the joys of a large family. That all sounds great, even pious, but not if he forgets to mature in his manhood. In some married Christian men, this type of rhetoric is not so much about openness to life and God's Providence as it is a lack of a desire to control sexual urges long enough to be appropriate. Some men won't even wait to get home first. Fundamentally is there a difference between a good Christian husband or a Neopagan hedonistic husband who asks his wife to have sex in her mom's bathroom during a big family Thanksgiving Dinner? That's a true story and since it will illustrate my point about making an idol out of sexual urges, I'm not telling you if it was a Christian or a Neopagan wife who shared it with me. I'll just let you ponder on it awhile.

Continue pondering while I stretch the story out of truth and into rhetorical fiction and change the time frame from a few hours of waiting to 72 hours during a weekend trip. Still obviously a case of tool use, right? Although there is a bit less of the hedonist showing in the Christian man's demeanor. Well, how about handing the wife a pregnancy induced heart attack with her last two children? Let's change that 72 hours from a weekend trip crowded with family who are going to know the couple just coupled to 72 hours of fertility a month. Can you see the tool use behind a husband insisting that sex is his prerogative even if her life is at risk. Can you see how his urge just might be his idol in that situation? He still may be coming at it from a purely saintly perspective of "trusting God with his sexuality" and with his wife's life, but such cases must be rare given the general state of humankind in the last few millennia.

Since this post is way longer than a blog post is supposed to be, how about we make a deal: if  I concede the point that the male urge to sex is sometimes given by God, will you concede my point that sometimes it isn't? Our emotions are a part of the symphony that make up human existence. Sometimes they are tied to biology, as in the case of oxytocin bonding a couple to each other and to their child, sometimes they are tied to a desire to love and serve the family by growing it, and sometimes they are tied to human frailty. As many Christian/Catholic men are weak and sinful as the nonChristian men. Women, too. I've said it in as many ways as possible, the only real difference between a Christian and a nonChristian is Christ. We Christians seek to be forgiven our shortcomings and frailties through Christ. We try not to pretend they don't exist.

Let's not pretend that this idol does not exist in our culture either. Even the Christian culture. Instead, let us put God on the throne of our lives, and let He who gave us Free Will remind us that we are not meant to be a slave to anything, even a God-given impulse to procreate. We serve God, not our passions.

In the economy of God, Woman is the pinnacle of creation and as such, she is the servant of the man. Jesus was the Perfect Man and served the world, so of course a wife is to honor a husband and be submissive. In  his way of reflecting Jesus, a husband is to lay his life down for her and sacrifice himself as Christ sacrificed Himself for the Church so that he can present his bride holy and unblemished before God (If this isn't sounding familiar it's the bit in Ephesians 5 that is after the "wives be subordinate to your husbands"). That doesn't sound like the type of man who won't make himself wait a few hours for sex or even a  few days. Nor does she sound like the type of creature who is to be reduced to nothing more than a glorified bodily fluid receptacle. If you read all the way to the end of Ephesians 5, you see some wonderful imagery. Just imagine! A wife is a treasure you will present to God and so she should be the best gift you have to offer. You might want to start thinking of her in those terms--a cherished gift you have both received and will give.

She is not a tool to be used. She is a treasure. Put her in the treasury of your heart and you will never find her again in the toolbox of your mind.

And wives? If he begins to treasure you, be a treasure and be treasured. It's nice.

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